Discovering Wood #3: Springtime- Redbud

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Blog entry by DocT posted 03-24-2011 03:45 PM 5867 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: A Little About Me Part 3 of Discovering Wood series Part 4: Redbud #2 »

The following is my third post at Discovering Wood:

I’ve been debating which tree to start with, and then the answer came to me quite suddenly. Less than two weeks ago, the world where I live was still stuck in the greys of winter, but then it suddenly began to explode with the colors of spring. In my area, the eruption of color begins with the Bradford Pear (definitely a tree worth addressing later) followed by forsythia, daffodils, crabapple and dogwood.

They are all welcome harbingers of spring, but absolutely nothing compares with the shocking vibrancy of the Redbud tree (Cercis canadensis). Perhaps it is simply that it is the state tree of my home state of Oklahoma that warms the cockles of my heart. It abounds in so much of the surrounding manmade landscape because of its beautiful spring showing, but it offers multi-seasonal interest as well: 1) The leaves are nearly perfectly heart shaped.

2) The bark is fairly smooth with a slight fishnet appearance on the young tree and branches, developing into small flat scales as the tree matures and its diameter increases. If the scales are disturbed or removed, the underbark is a distinctive reddish-brown.

3) The Redbud also bears a seedpod through much of the winter, which resembles a flattened pea-pod and is often borne in clusters.

Raised in “captivity,” these cultivated Redbuds are often asked to survive out in the open, far away from their preferred place in the understory, protected by the strong Oak or stately Ash. Subject to the strong Oklahoma winds, these contorted single or multi-stemmed trees take on an almost bonsai quality.

The redbud also abounds in the native landscape and pierces the darkness of the otherwise leafless forest, beckoning hikers to wander the understory.

They are so prevalent in nature that it is said that they were once used as a delineator of USDA hardiness zones. They say that you can tell which zone that you are in based on when your redbuds begin blooming. I personally associate the arrival of its blossoms with the arrival of Easter. While the Dogwood is reportedly most intimately associated with the actual crucifixion, one of the nicknames of the Redbud is the “Judas Tree” as some people believe that Judas Iscariot hanged himself after his betrayal from a related tree Cercis siliquastrum.

Most of us would never consider Redbud as a viable source of wood. I’ve lived around them my entire life and have never found a piece in the firewood pile. You certainly won’t find it in a commercial lumberyard. Large diameter Rebuds are not very common, although the National Register of Big Trees a tree in Jackson, MO that stands 39 feet tall with a circumference of 132 inches (a little math tells me that that is 42 inches in diameter). Wow! That may call for a road trip!

I intend to discuss each subject species over several posts, primarily to allow discoveries of information along the way. This includes information tendered by my readers. If you have personal experience, please feel free to add to this or any discussion in the comments section.

Next time, we will get into a discussion about the wood from the beautiful Redbud.


9 comments so far

View D1st's profile


290 posts in 3034 days

#1 posted 03-24-2011 04:22 PM

Nice post on discovering wood. Unfortunately I had to cut one down in my back yard due to trunk rot. It served us with shade and beauty in the spring and summer. Hope to see more of your posts.


View Grandpa's profile


3259 posts in 2669 days

#2 posted 03-24-2011 04:26 PM

I also live in OK. SW OK where the wind blows constantly and strongly. I can appreciate your writing and love of the Redbud tree. Thank you. I have planeted dozens of Redbud trees. I mix them with Burr Oaks. Unfortunately the Redbuds do grow faster and they do struggle in this wind. I suppose the Burr Oaks should be planted some years aphead of the Redbuds. I still enjoy them and trying to keep them healthy. Thanks again for your report.

View DaddyZ's profile


2475 posts in 3034 days

#3 posted 03-24-2011 05:06 PM

WOW !! 2 more Okies all In 1 Post, The Redbuds in my yard are blooming quite well. I am located in Central, OK.

-- Pat - Worker of Wood, Collector of Tools, Father of one

View driftwoodhunter's profile


273 posts in 2680 days

#4 posted 03-24-2011 05:12 PM

This is going to be a great series, I can’t wait!

I grew up in Connecticut, and moved to the Appalchian mountains of Virginia in ‘89. I was 29 or so then. I had never seen or heard of a redbud tree before – maybe the previous zone I lived in was too cold, or I was just cluless and did see them, mistaking them for another tree. They astound me every year, and here they bloom just proir to, and with, the dogwood. What a site to see while hiking the woods! I tried to dig a 24” wild one up off the side of an old road one day. The roots must have gone to China – my Dad laughed at me for weeks. Needless to say, the tree won and was never moved by me!

View whitedog's profile


652 posts in 3451 days

#5 posted 03-24-2011 06:35 PM

Great post I like the pictures , it helps .

-- Paul , Calfornia

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4155 days

#6 posted 03-25-2011 12:39 PM

and did you know: “The flowers are excellent in salads or by themselves. The inner-bark is highly astringent.” .. I read that somewhere while looking up information about the trees on my property.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View DocT's profile


109 posts in 3432 days

#7 posted 03-25-2011 03:27 PM

MsDebbieP- I have heard that the flowers are edible, but I haven’t ventured to try them! Guess what’s for lunch…


View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4155 days

#8 posted 03-25-2011 03:34 PM

I look forward to hearing about your meal!
I planted a redbud a couple of years ago but have yet to see it in bloom. Last year it really grew a lot so maybe next month I’ll see some “lunch blossoming” on my little tree.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Blackie_'s profile


4883 posts in 2506 days

#9 posted 10-15-2011 11:21 PM

It just so happens a neighbor is cutting one down, they don’t have a long life span and his is rotting and falling over, I’m planing on taking the larger trunks and see how well they do as bandsaw boxes, as for as OK, goes I lived there 2 years during my teen years and as much as I hate to say this, I am so glad I’m not from there, the worst parts of my life and would avoid passing through it if all all possible just due to the negative memories, I am so glad to call Texas my home.

-- Randy - If I'm not on LJ's then I'm making Saw Dust. Please feel free to visit my store location at

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